The Open University of Israel (OUI) is a distance education institution with open admissions that offers academic studies to students throughout Israel. Its home-study method allows its students to pursue higher education whenever and wherever convenient. The OUI offers over 500 courses in life sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, management, Jewish studies, education, humanities, psychology, communications, music and art, and more, and has about 38,000 students all over Israel and abroad. The OUI has traditionally taken advantage of existing technologies and has integrated state-of-the-art technology into its courses. For several years, the OUI has been integrating computer-mediated-communication (CMC) technologies into its course Web sites to improve its distance teaching. These new teaching methods expand and enrich the written textbooks that are the basis for teaching at the OUI. The incorporation of technological teaching methods is fully adapted to the written study materials that are prepared by experts in their fields. Below, we will present the OUI and its distance learning methods, which include the integration of the CMC technologies.
The OUI, a distance education institution authorized by the Council for Higher Education of Israel, was established in 1976 to provide academic studies to students throughout the country. The OUI is characterized by open admissions and a flexible curriculum, method, and pace of study. The OUI’s uniqueness, as well as characteristics it has in common with other open universities, can be found in a comparative study of distance and campus universities (Guri-Rosenblit, 1999).
Since its establishment, the OUI has been growing steadily. In the past decade, student enrollment increased by more than 100% to more than 38,000 students, compared to about 18,000 students in 1993. Figure 1 depicts this growth. Today, every sixth student in Israel studies at the OUI, making it Israel’s largest university.
OUI growth in the last decade
To better serve the growing number of students, the university has stepped up the development of new courses and new programs toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as the development of innovative teaching methods integrating a variety of advanced technologies such as computer-mediated communication, multimedia elements, and interactive broadband communication.Top
The OUI curriculum is relatively flexible. The university offers over 40 programs of studies—single-, dual-, and multidisciplinary—and undergraduates can also design a personal program of studies based on internal logic and academic justification, accepted in the general university community and bound by rules that limit the multidisciplinary flexibility of the program.
The OUI offers over 500 academic courses in diverse fields on different levels and of varied scope, leading to BA, BSc, MBA, MA, and MSc degrees. The main disciplines and fields of study are listed in Figure 2.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Learning: The use of electronic technologies and media, mainly the Internet and computer-based and networking technologies, to deliver, support, and enhance teaching and learning.
Distance Teaching University: A university in which instructors and students are separated by distance and interact mainly through communication technologies. It allows its students to study wherever convenient. It requires special methods of course and instructional design, as well as special organizational and administrative arrangements.
Open Admissions: Admission to a university with no formal entry requirements: It is open to everyone without the need for proof of prior scholastic achievements.
Open University: This term is used to refer to a distance teaching university that offers courses through distance learning, employing either traditional, technology-integrated, and sometimes entirely online methods. It is also used to refer to a university with open admissions. The term is not unequivocal. These universities usually allow for flexibility in curriculum and pace of studies. “Open University” can also be part of the name of an institution, often combined with the name of the country in which it operates, such as the OUI, OUUK (Open University of the United Kingdom), OUHK (Open University of Hong Kong), and AOU (Arab Open University).
Distance Education: A teaching method in which students do not have to come to a specific location in order to hear lectures or study. The learning materials reach them either by mail, through the Internet, or through other means (satellite, cable). The main component of the method is usually written material together with additional components such as assignments, face-to-face (or computer-mediated) tutorials, and examinations. It involves learning outside of the traditional avenues of attendance at educational institutions.